This is a nice article in The Atlantic on the polarization of the country and the effects it’s having on our democracy, Politics Is More Broken Than Ever—Political Scientists Need to Admit It.

The Supremes Pick By Political Cognition

How judicial appointments can affect the perceptions of cases was shown in this article:

For Justices, Free Speech Often Means ‘Speech I Agree With

In short it does matter what justices are chosen for the Supreme Court.

Obamacare Evaluated By The Insurance Industry

Interesting data point on Obamacare by the insurance industry:

NYT’s article “Called by Republicans, Health Insurers Deliver Unexpected Testimony“.

Thinking About Presidential Democracies

It’s one of the most important things in my mental life to challenge what I believe, to double check, test, and try new things and ways in my life. So the second big USA government shutdown in my lifetime had me reading the following Washington Post articles:

The Shutdown Is The Constitution’s Fault
Thirteen Reasons Washington Is Failing
Is America A Bubble

The gist of these suggest presidential democracies, such as the USA has, do not have high survival rates. It’s claimed the US and Chile were the only long term survivors and Chile gave up on it a couple decades ago. The final article is about how US bonds, and the country in general may be in a bubble. Given my experience of 2008, I’m feeling even less comfortable the way our government is going.

The “Maker” States Win 2012 Election (Generously Giving to Red States)

Two Color Map That Leads On Astray

Two Color Map That Leads Astray

Today I saw the 2012 election map like the one above1. It looks overwhelmingly red and the tagline that came with it was something like “Look how much red is required to support the little blue”. If I might rephrase this to express what I think is the implication, “Look how many ‘makers’ it takes to support the ‘takers’.”

How we present data is hugely important and all too often I think the geeks don’t think enough about the message and graphics to help humans understand the data, not just read the numbers. And of course bad presentation choices can be deliberate to make a point.

The right question is very important and here’s what I think it the right question: ¿Do we elect a president by population or acres? I know, it seems stupid, but doesn’t the tagline with the mailing raise that question? I believe we should approach it not by acres but by people (yes I know, the Electoral College (and 2000 Bush vs Gore decision where it came down to 5 justices to 4) distort this some).

If you check out Maps of the 2008 Presidential Election Results (2012 results don’t seem to be complete yet) you can see many variations. My favorite follows. Rather than two colors which overemphasizes differences they use a more graduated scale. And they distort the map so that equal populations take equal areas.

2008 Election Map Showing Shades of Red v Blue and Equal Populations Adjusted to Equal Areas

2008 Election Map Showing Shades of Red v Blue and Equal Populations Adjusted to Equal Areas

Doesn’t look so dramatically out of line does it? And of course this is a Homer Simpson “D’OH!” moment. The 2008 election split 53% to 46% so it should be pretty evenly split.

You say: But the implication was about Makers and Takers. What about that?!?! Continue reading

Most Compendious Statement of 2012 Campaigns

Bill Clinton, in his speech before the Democratic National Convention, gave the most succinct and accurate assessment of the Republican campaign proposition:

We left him a total mess. He hasn’t cleaned it up fast enough. So fire him and put us back in.

Trying my hand at this I’d say the Democratic proposition is:

We got the economy in an even worse mess than we thought. We stopped the Great Depression II and got things turned around. Give us more time to improve it.

Ryan Speech Fact Checking from Business Community

I found the Business Insider checking Ryan’s speech one of the more interesting fact checks. Particularly their take on the S&P downgrade of the USA’s credit rating. Concerning the downgrade S&P stated:

Compared with previous projections, our revised base case scenario now assumes that the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts, due to expire by the end of 2012, remain in place. We have changed our assumption on this because the majority of Republicans in Congress continue to resist any measure that would raise revenues, a position we believe Congress reinforced by passing the act. Key macroeconomic assumptions in the base case scenario include trend real GDP growth of 3% and consumer price inflation near 2% annually over the decade.

An interesting question is why Republicans would bring this up in their own convention. I’d expect this much more at the Democratic convention.

Political Humor (& truth) At Its Best

I think the political party that best represents me is that of Jon Stewart & Stephen Colbert. And one of the best stump speeches I’ve heard from them is below:        

The Colbert Report Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Paul Ryan’s Misleading GOP Convention Speech
Colbert Report Full Episodes Political Humor & Satire Blog Video Archive

Thoughtful. Funny. Sad. Paradoxical. I love the turbulent ambiguity of it all.